Philippines midwife delivers baby by emergency lamp as civil strife erupts

It was an evening of tense anticipation. A 19-year-old woman was in labor at the Limook Village Health Station in Basilan, Philippines, an area rocked by civil conflict. Midwife Virginia Cadano could hear the rumble of explosions in the distance. But she kept her focus on the pregnant Husna Asaddil and on Katelyn Bernado, 26, whom she had helped give birth earlier in the evening with light from an emergency lamp.

Challenging circumstances like these have become common for Virginia. In her area, where security can be a serious concern, being a skillful health care provider may not be enough. Devotion, dedication and the heart to serve are also just as important. Throughout her 35 years in public health, Virginia has lived by this maxim.

“Presence of mind,” Virginia said, to explain her concentration. “But I was also thinking about my family back home.”

Despite the circumstances, Virginia successfully managed the births of the two new mothers. She also counseled Husna on family planning and later provided her with a postpartum intrauterine device, the method chosen by the new mother.

Virginia delivers an average of 54 babies a month. She recognizes the importance of making family planning options available to her clients, thanks to a Jhpiego-supported training she attended. She is now one of the dedicated providers who believe that family planning is not only for pregnancy spacing, but is also an intervention for saving lives and keeping young clients healthy.

The Department of Health honored Virginia as one of the Heroes for Health, recognized for their exemplary work, innovation and health reforms.

“Selflessness in times of danger/adversity is my mantra in order to save lives, especially the vulnerable young women and newborns, and I will stick to this until the day I die or when my mind and my body tell me it’s time for me to rest,” she said.